Weibo capitulates amid Chinese government’s censorship crackdown

Chinese social networking giant Weibo Corp has caved into government pressure to shut down accounts which have unsettled the one-party state’s rulers in Beijing.

The firm behind China’s top microblogging site indicated it would prefer to self-censor rather than be forcibly closed, saying in a statement released late last night that it would work with state media, such as the Xinhua news agency and the People’s Daily, to promote a mainstream discourse in future.

Unlicensed television and film content, as well as videos longer than 15 minutes, will also be banned on its platforms, Weibo said.

The announcement comes just days after Weibo published a press release acknowledging receipt of a notice issued to it by the state media regulator which threatened to close its hugely popular video-sharing service along with two other popular rivals, AcFun and Ifeng.

Thousands of journalists have also reportedly been fired amid the latest crackdown on freedom of expression.

In a statement posted on its website yesterday, Weibo said it sincerely accepted criticism from the regulator and would immediately begin work to remove political, media and current affairs video accounts from outlets which lack the appropriate government-issued license.

All forms of media are strictly controlled in China and the government has previously vowed to further strengthen its control over the dissemination of information to the public.

Beijing has long feared that tittle-tattle about Chinese Communist Party officials, spread through social media, could stoke civil unrest and the Party appears to have been shaken by the scale of the appetite in the country for vlogging and microblogging – a phenomenon which is now becoming increasingly mired in red tape.

Television and film producers in China are legally required to submit content to the state regulator for approval. Streams deemed harmful to morality are swiftly shut down.

In recent years the Chinese government has particularly taken against apps which allow users to live-stream video content. In 2014, online video platform LeTV began removing its app that allows TV users to access online video, reportedly because of requirements laid down by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television.

Earlier this year the Chinese government blocked millions of overseas users of Weibo from posting pictures or video on their feeds to mark the 28th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

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